George HW Bush's death: Jacinda Ardern, Mikhail Gorbachev offer condolences

Tributes to former US President George HW Bush have poured in from around the world, as global leaders honoured him for his role in helping to end the Cold War and reduce the danger of nuclear annihilation.

Bush, the 41st US President, also routed President Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army in the 1991 Gulf War but lost his chance for a second term in the White House after breaking a no-new-taxes pledge.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand acknowledges the contribution Mr Bush made to international affairs over decades of service to the US.

"As an American envoy to Beijing, as CIA director, as Vice President for eight years and then four years as President, George HW Bush's statesmanship played a key role in helping to end the Cold War, which bought democracy to millions of people in Europe and diminished the threat of nuclear war.

"George HW Bush was a strong supporter of the international rules-based system, the rule of law and democratic values. Our deepest condolences are extended to the Bush family and the people of the United States of America at this time."

George H W Bush was President between 1989 and 1993.
George H W Bush was President between 1989 and 1993. Photo credit: Reuters

The last leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, with whom Bush signed a strategic arms reduction treaty, said many of his memories were linked with the former US President.

"We happened to work together in years of great changes. It was a dramatic time demanding huge responsibility from everyone," Russia's Interfax news agency cited Mr Gorbachev as saying on Saturday.

Speaking in Buenos Aires, US President Donald Trump said Mr Bush was "a high quality man" who led an "exemplary" life.

"He was a very fine man. I met him on numerous occasions. He was just a high quality man who truly loved his family," Mr Trump told reporters at a G20 summit.

In Houston, people left flowers at iron gates leading to the street of Mr Bush Sr's home and at a bronze statue of him in a city park.

Mr Bush's death on Friday night at age 94 was announced by longtime spokesman Jim McGrath. No further details about the circumstances of his death were immediately available.

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Photo credit: Getty

The White House said a state funeral is being arranged at the National Cathedral in Washington.

The President, who plans to attend the funeral with first lady Melania Trump, also designated a national day of mourning on Wednesday, December 5, and ordered the lowering of the American flag for 30 days.

Former Presidents including Jimmy Carter remembered Bush as a leader of grace and humility.

"His administration was marked by grace, civility and social conscience," Mr Carter said in a statement.

Barack Obama described Bush as "a patriot and humble servant" while Bill Clinton, who defeated Mr Bush in the 1992 presidential election, recalled his "great long life of service, love and friendship".

Mr Bush was the father of former president George W Bush, who served two terms in the 2000s, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Republican nomination for President.

Like his sons, Bush was a Republican.

His death came seven months after that of his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, to whom he was married for 73 years.

"The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41's life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens," George W Bush said in a statement.

A US naval aviator during World War II, the elder Bush also served as Vice President for eight years during Ronald Reagan's two terms as President.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Bush Sr's ethos of public service was the guiding thread of his life and "an example to us all".